That little light can mean a lot of things. How do you know if it’s a serious problem or just a small issue? One day, this might happen to you, you glance down at your vehicle’s dashboard only to see the check engine light turned on. You burst into a cold sweat wondering just how badly your car’s engine needs to be checked.
If your car doesn’t sound like there is a monkey swinging a hammer under your hood and your vehicle is not billowing smoke, you’re probably not in immediate danger. The check engine light, or malfunction indication light, as it’s known to the auto elite, is designed to keep the driver informed of any number of sensor failures or engine irregularities.
As automotive environmental standards became stricter throughout the 1980s, onboard engine monitoring became more and more complex. Today, a variety of sensors feed your vehicle’s computer information on everything from ambient air temperature to the amount of oxygen in the car’s exhaust gasses.
The vehicle’s onboard computer, or engine control unit (ECU), then makes adjustments to ensure that the engine is running as efficiently, and cleanly, as possible in the given conditions. When one of those sensors fail, or gets a strange reading, you get the dreaded amber light of doom.